Lawyers for Elizabeth Colton, a State Department Foreign Services officer, have asked a federal judge in Washington to withdraw their motion for a preliminary injunction against the department that would have required it to extend her tenure as a foreign diplomat and halt any alleged retaliation against their client. Her lawsuit challenging the U.S. Foreign Service's mandatory retirement policy, however, will move forward.
Colton sued Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her official capacity and the State Department in September, alleging that she was denied placement in certain overseas posts because of her age.
Colton, 64, contended that in late 2008 she was offered a position as chief of the Political and Economic Section at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, when she was then 63 years old. But shortly after she accepted the job, the offer was revoked when her supervisors realized that the two-year post would require her to work past the Foreign Service's mandatory retirement age of 65. The Foreign Service's human resources department informed Colton that she could not take the position and filled the post with another candidate.
Colton is being represented by Sutherland Asbill & Brennan partners Thomas Bundy III and Lewis Weiner and associate Christopher Hammond and Susan Huhta of the Washington Lawyers' committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Sutherland is handling the case pro bono.
On July 23, Colton filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent retaliation and for a writ of mandamus compelling Clinton and the State Department to grant the request initiated by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to extend her tenure in the Foreign Service by three years.
According to court records, on Aug. 4, the State Department told Colton via e-mail that her mandatory retirement had been postponed until Sept. 2011 and that she had approved to serve as the information officer for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Weiner said today that because the State Department had “unilaterally and voluntarily” extended Colton’s term of service for one year they had “mitigated the expediency of the situation that had compelled us to file our motion for injunctive relief.”
Weiner said that lawsuit against the State Department, which alleges violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and retaliation, will go forward.
“The substantive allegations in the complaint are still ongoing,” Weiner said.